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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Teacher Tuesday: Behavior Management (part 4)

It's hard to believe my post on behavior management has turned into a 4-part series, but I'm glad it did. Behavior management, in its entirety is the single most important aspect of teaching in my opinion. So here we go with Part 4: strategies I use with individual students rather than a class as a whole. 

I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating that I currently teach a student population that has some significant behavior challenges. In the first 7 years of my teaching I taught in a very different environment and did not use or need any of these strategies that I am sharing with you today. Yes, I recognized and redirected individual students, and even had individualized behavior plans for a few students, but I did not have a need for a systematic way of rewarding, redirecting, or correcting students individually. I used only a whole-class system and that was enough. But the majority of my current students do not get much affirmation, attention, or established and implemented boundaries at home. I found that whole-class systems were not enough to enable my students to feel secure and loved, no matter how much I tried to communicate that informally. So after 6 months of struggling and a winter break full of intense reflection, I implemented not 1, not 2, but 3 new systems to deal with students on an individual level. One is for correcting, one for redirecting, and one for affirming. Most of them are stolen from or inspired by other sources, so please make sure you check out the links for each one to find out more detail about the individual ideas.

So let's start with correction. One of the systems I wanted to implement was a way to guide students in reflecting on their behavior, and also communicate behavior issues to parents, homeroom teachers, and the principal if needed. An online search turned up quite a few wonderful ideas for behavior reflection sheets and notes home. I wanted something that would be quick and easy to fill out and also reinforced my 3 class rules, so I took the ideas from a lot of different sources and came up with this:


At first I intended to have students fill the form out themselves, but I quickly found that when a student is dis-regulated, they just create more disruption when I try to have them sit and write about their behavior in class. So I have switched to filling it out myself, then using it to talk about and reflect on the behavior with the student. We both sign it in front of each other after the student has agreed to what I wrote (and sometimes we make changes after our conversation), and then the student takes it home to have it signed. I usually show the homeroom teacher the slip before I hand it to the student so that I can quickly communicate the issue to them without discussing it in front of the class while they are standing in line. If I have to send them to the principal's office or somewhere else for their behavior, I send the note with them as a way to communicate the issue. Usually the principal signs the note as well in that case.

I have found that the most important part of the implementation of this system is the follow-up. I tell students they have a week to get the signed note back to me. I try to remind them several times when I see them in the hallways etc, and when it is approaching a week I remind them that if they don't get it back to me I will be calling home. When I first started I had several students try to call my bluff but they quickly found out that I wasn't lying. Once I speak to the parents, I usually have no issue getting the notes back the next day. 

The second system I implemented is for redirection. I use this for minor behavior problems, as a warning. If they get a warning and then continue to have issues, I move on to the behavior slip. This is a popular idea making the rounds on Pinterest called the resting spot:


It's not pretty but it does the job. I got the idea first from Mrs. King's Music Class. I have a sign with a big picture of a rest (which I have found has really made it much easier to introduce the rest sign to my kindergarteners because they have seen it so much already!), and a desk in the far corner of my room. Our district uses an emotional literacy program that includes the idea of a "meta-moment", where students think through how they should respond appropriately to conflict. I have the poster for that concept taped to the desk for students to reference.

I try to make it clear that students should not see this as "punishment" or make it a big deal, but rather take it as an opportunity to reflect on and modify their behavior for themselves. In keeping with our district's program, students are also free to go there on their own if they feel themselves getting frustrated and want to prevent inappropriate behavior.

I have found this system to be very helpful, with one caveat- I have had to tell some classes that if they over-use it, I will take away the privilege of having the rest area. I had one class last year that I actually forbid from using it, because students were constantly getting up and dramatically stomping over to the rest area out of supposed frustration, causing more disruptions to the class. I also make sure students understand they cannot stay there for a long time. I can usually tell when a student is just being lazy and wanting to get out of doing class work, and I will remind them that they need to rejoin the class again.

My third system for managing individual student behaviors has been, hands down, the most effective behavior management tool I have ever used. It is called the "happy note" and I got mine here as a free download from Kristin Lukow. It was so successful that, at our last staff meeting last year, several of the homeroom teachers and the principal were talking to the entire staff about how effective it was for their students.


The note is simple but the effect is powerful. I choose one student at the end of every class period and fill out a note. I write their name on the front and a specific praise on the back, and announce it to the entire class before they leave. The students go crazy for these things, and I have heard from several students and parents who have told me that they have their note proudly displayed at home. Students will often parade it around at school as well- pulling it out of their pocket to show their friends, their teachers, the principal, and anyone else who happens to walk by. :) I have quite honestly been amazed at the power of this tiny note!

One of the big improvements that I have been able to make this school year is getting the support of the homeroom teachers. I went around to every classroom before school started, explained my system, and asked if they would be willing to reinforce the behavior with consequences in their homeroom. Although the response was not uniform, every teacher agreed to reinforce it in some way- by having students move up or down levels (if they use a clip-chart) for behavior notes and happy notes, or adding or subtracting points (if they use a banking system), or taking away and adding minutes (if they do some sort of "fun Friday" or other free time system). Many of the teachers have also been very helpful in following up with parents when I send home a behavior slip, stapling it into the student's agenda notebook or including a note in an email home. With so many students to manage, it has been very helpful to have their help and support, and also added some weight to the rewards and consequences beyond their short time in music class.

If you want to read about the rest of my behavior management systems, click on the behavior management category on the right side of the blog page and check out all my previous posts on the topic.

What systems do you use in your classroom to address students individually? Leave a comment!

11 comments :

  1. thank you for sharing your ideas. One question I have (and this is my struggle), WHEN do you have time/opportunity to write behavior slips and happy notes while managing the group? If I turn my back, I lose many of my students. I have a hard time stopping instruction for these kinds of things (nurse's notes, bathroom requests, bandaids, etc). And then there are 18 different classroom systems in my school?!!!

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    1. I hate having to deal with nurse's passes, tissues, band-aids and such in the middle of class. You're right, it's easy to completely lose the class! Unless it is a huge issue for which I need to call or send someone to the office, I do all of the notes at the end of class as students are lining up. I use the same procedure for lining up each time, here's my procedure if you're interested: http://caldwellorganizedchaos.blogspot.com/2015/03/teacher-tuesday-routines-for-end-of.html As they are walking, I am frantically writing the note(s) that I have stored on my clipboard while keeping an eye on the class. This year I also started having someone assigned to give a compliment to another student at the end of class, so that buys me some time as well (here's my post on that: http://caldwellorganizedchaos.blogspot.com/2015/10/teacher-tuesday-classroom-jobs-in.html). I think the biggest key is having them right there with me on my clipboard so I don't have to walk over to my desk or dig through a drawer to find the note (here's my post on that: http://caldwellorganizedchaos.blogspot.com/2014/10/teacher-tuesday-organized-clipboard.html). Hope these tips help!

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  2. I think you have just saved me for this upcoming year. I'm so excited to implement some of your behavior management solutions!!

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    1. That is so awesome to hear! I hope it helps :)

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  3. What do you do when you have sent note after note home, called time and again and STILL nothing changes with the behavior? I have a few like this, unfortunately it discourages me about taking time to write notes and call home. I make a at least 2 calls a day just for LUNCH DUTY!! Grrr!! Help!

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    1. I know how that feels- unfortunately you will probably always have a few students that you can never click with (just like we all have adults we just don't like, no matter how hard we try) and they are going to continue to be difficult in your classroom no matter what you do. The only thing you can do is keep trying. Someone said to me recently that we have to approach it like we're doctors treating a serious illness. If a doctor had a patient they just couldn't find a cure for after trying everything they could think of, would they just stop trying to treat them? I hope not. You just keep going back to the drawing board- talking to colleagues, talking to parents, talking to the child themselves, getting support from other adults in the building. Stay engaged with the child no matter how frustrated you are with them. I do have some students for whom I no longer send home notes- I have learned that for that child, it doesn't really affect them and they don't have anyone at home who cares enough for it to make a difference at all. For them I try to find a different carrot or stick (hopefully both) that will motivate them, and it almost always involves relational consequences (give them more attention, extra one-on-one time, etc for positive, less for negative etc). If it's someone I really don't get along with, the relational consequences might not be with me but with someone they actually get along with (so you get rewarded with more time with your friend/ teacher that you like/ etc). I hope this is helpful! I wish there was a magic bullet but there isn't, unfortunately. Dealing with real people in real life dealing with real struggles gets messy, and that's the way it's supposed to be!

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    2. Great advice! Love the doctor analogy. Thank you!

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  4. How do you keep track of who owes you a note on which day? I anticipate at least one note per class (I hope I'm wrong!) Do you have a tracking sheet? If so, would you be willing to share? Thanks!

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    1. I tend to go in spurts with the notes- the beginning of the school year and the beginning of January when we come back from the longer breaks I usually send the most notes because I am establishing the expectations, but I find it slows down once they figure out that I'm serious and understand better what the expectations are. Anyway, I keep track on my seating chart. I have a row of small boxes at the top of my seating chart that says "H" for happy note, and another row that says "B" for behavior note. For happy notes I just check it off so I make sure they are getting spread around evenly over time, and for the behavior notes I write down the day that I send it home. This is good both for trying to keep up with getting them back and for record keeping when report cards and conferences roll around. I have a set of seating charts, including the one I use here (I just add a "table" in powerpoint to make the little boxes at the top for the notes): https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Seating-Chart-Set-Music-1350295Another thing that has been helpful is getting the homeroom teachers involved. I usually hand the note to them when they come to pick up their class so that they know what happened, and they will help remind the student by stapling it into their agenda, or even physically handing it to the parent at the end of the school day. They know better than I how reliable the student is about handing stuff in ;)

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  5. One thing I do with my island of rest is have an hourglass timer and have them read the rules. When the minute is up or when they have read and digested the rules, they return. It takes K kids longer because they are having meltdowns usually because they can't control themselves as well yet. But it works! I have happy notes too but I modified them to include the student's name and a longer place to write.

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    1. Yes I always write a note on the back of the note, and the kids always seem to remember exactly what I wrote even years later! I've always wondered about using a timer. I feel like students need different amounts of time to calm down depending on what happened etc, but it also can be tricky to make sure they aren't just sitting there to be lazy :)

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